Drug Allergies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment – Can Medications Cause Allergies?

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What is Drug Allergies?

Drug Allergies are defined as the abnormal reaction of the immune system to a medication or drugs such as over-the-counter, prescription or herbal.

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Drug allergy has most common signs and symptoms such as hives, fever or rash. It may also cause serious reactions, like a life-threatening condition which affects multiple body systems.

A drug allergy is not similar to drug side effect ( a possible reaction listed on a drug label) and drug toxicity (caused by an overdose of medication).

Symptoms of Drug Allergies:

People with drug allergies may experience symptoms with their medicines that come in liquid, pill or injectable form. Following are the symptoms of drug allergies including;

  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Fever
  • Swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • A runny nose
  • Itchy or watery eyes

Conditions Resulting From Drug Allergies:

There are several conditions that are the results of drug allergies they may be normal or life-threatening to human beings including;

Anaphylaxis: It is a rare, life-threatening reaction to a drug allergy that usually causes widespread dysfunction of body systems, its symptoms are tightening of airways and throat that causes trouble in breathing, vomiting, and nausea or abdominal cramps.

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Serum sickness- It may cause fever, rash, joint pain, swelling, and nausea.

Drug-induced anemia- It is the condition of a reduction in red blood cells, that can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and irregular heartbeats.

Drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS)- It results in rash, swelling, high white blood cell count, swollen lymph nodes and recurrence of dormant hepatitis infection.

Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis)- It can cause fever, swelling, blood in the urine, and confusion.

Causes of Drug Allergies:

A drug allergy occurs when the immune system wrongly identifies a drug as a harmful substance like a bacterium or virus. Once the immune system detects a drug as a harmful substance, the process of developing antibodies starts for that specific drug.

Chemicals that are released during this activity cause the signs and symptoms which is associated with an allergic reaction.

Some allergic reactions may result from different processes. Several researchers believe that drugs or medicines can bind directly to the certain type of immune system like T cell. This event releases chemicals that can cause an allergic reaction.

Medications that Causes Allergies:

  • Antibiotics like penicillin.
  • Pain-relievers including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.
  • Chemotherapy drugs used for treating cancer.
  • Medications for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

Risk Factors Associated With Drug Allergies:

There are several factors that can increase the risk for drug allergies including ;

  • If a person has a history of other allergies like a food allergy or hay fever.
  • Having family or personal history of drug allergy.
  • Certain illnesses that are commonly associated with allergic drug reactions like Epstein-Barr virus or infection with HIV virus.

Treatments for Drug Allergies:

  • Use of antihistamine to counteract the allergic reaction.
  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce inflammation.
  • Taking drug desensitization process.
  • Taking penicillin allergy treatment.

Prevention of Drug Allergies:

The best prevention for avoiding the problem related to drug allergies including clearly identifying drug allergy in medical records and wearing a medical alert bracelet, and proper treatment in an emergency.

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